No, this beautiful lady is not Marilyn Monroe, though Marilyn was beautiful. This beautiful lady is under Marilyn’s feet in the above photograph. This beautiful lady is the SS United States. Impressed by the Cunard liners RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth, which transported hundreds of thousands of troops to and from Europe for World War Two, the United States government sponsored and heavily subsidized the SS United States. The American government wanted a large fast ocean liner that could transport large numbers of troops to Europe in a time of war. The government paid $50 million of the $78 million construction costs, and subsidized the operating costs. The was designed by the same firm that designed more than two thirds of the ships built during World War Two, and they put the best naval architect in America on the job, William Francis Gibbs.
The SS United States is truly the most impressive ocean liner ever built. Not just for her day (she was built in 1952), but even today 61 years later. You may find that hard to believe now, but hopefully by the end of this article you will understand why I make that claim.
The SS United States was built to US Navy standards because of all the money they were pouring into it. She was heavily compartmentalized so she could take quite a bit of damage and not only stay afloat but under her own power. Her engine room and hull below the water line were classified. In 1978, nine years after she was laid up, this information (still classified) was leaked to the public. Her cruising speed was 32 knots ( 37 mph, 59 km/h) her maximum sustained speed was 35 knots and her maximum speed (for short sprints) was 38 knots (44 mph, 71 km/h). She had 240,000 shaft horse power. Her maximum displacement (weight) was 47, 265 tons. Maximum gross registered tons (cubic feet of cargo/passenger space 100 cubic feet = 1 ton).
On her maiden voyage, she broke the east bound speed record for a ocean liner in regular trans-Atlantic service. On her return trip, she broke the west bound speed record for a ocean liner in regular trans-Atlantic service. This gave the SS United States the Blue Riband, an honor the SS United States still holds to this day. There have been catamarans who have bested the SS United States east bound record and they received the Hales Trophy, but they were not ocean liners in regular passenger service and they did not make a westbound crossing. So, the SS United States retains its west bound speed record and the Blue Riband.
The SS United States had the luxury you would expect of the world’s greatest ocean liner in passenger service and catered to some of the most famous people of her 17-year career. Presidents, royalty, stars, athletes, and the wealthiest of the wealthy, all took passage aboard the SS United States.
I would like to be able to tell you that all is ll with this historic ship, but it is not. An anonymous donor donated $5.8 million to preserve the ship. Not just the greatest ocean liner ever made in the United States, but in the world. However, the SS United States Conservancy is stll $500,000 short and they have about two months to raise the funds. The good news is the effort is being spearheaded by the William Francis Gibbs’ grandaughter, and you can help. Just $1 USD can buy one square inch. Below are more articles and video clips where you can learn even more about this unique historic ship, and what you can do to help. Thank You!
- SS United States Once Again Scheduled For Scrap (philebrity.com)
- Historic SS United States Short On Funds, Time (philadelphia.cbslocal.com)
- AP: Historic Ship in Philly Short on Funds, Time (abcnews.go.com)
- Historic Ship May Be Sold For Scrap (huffingtonpost.com)
- Historic ship in Philadelphia short on $500K, time (triblive.com)
- APNewsBreak: Historic ship short on funds and time (cnsnews.com)
- AP: Historic ship in Philly short on funds, time (sacbee.com)
- Historic ocean liner docked in Philly needs $500,000 or could be sold for scrap (timescolonist.com)
- Saving the SS United States (cbsnews.com)